Inversions and opposites and contradictions and a world remade

File:Les Baux Berger à la messe de Noel.jpg

Watching for the Morning of April 17, 2016

Year C

The Fourth Sunday of Easter / Good Shepherd Sunday

The crucified rebel is Lord of All. The lamb who was slain, lives. The Lamb is the Shepherd. The lame and the shamed are brought to the wedding feast. The tax-gatherer goes home justified. The meek inherit the earth. The New Testament is rife with images turned inside out and the world turned upside down. The scripture doesn’t defend the status quo – it promises and brings a totally new one. The God of the Bible isn’t defending morality, but radically redefining it.

It is hard for us to get our heads around this. “The message of the cross is folly to the Gentiles,” writes Paul. The risen Jesus must patiently teach the scriptures again and again, for even with all that his followers have seen, they don’t get it. It’s why Jesus washes feet and welcomes children and declares it necessary for him to eat at the house of Zacchaeus. It’s why his puts up with the insults of Simon the Pharisee when he eats at his table. It’s why he breaks bread with Judas – and serves breakfast to Peter the denier.

So we come again in this Easter season to Good Shepherd Sunday. But it does not present us a pious pastoral image of the tender shepherd with a lamb around his neck. This is the slain lamb who lives who is Lord of all, standing on the throne of God. This is the shepherd who provides a banquet table for the king “in the presence of my enemies.” This is martyrs who make their robes white by washing them in blood. This is the slain singing God’s praise. This is Dorcas dead but made alive. This is sheep given the life of the age to come: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Easter is a deeply unsettling. A profound revolution. But the hope of all the ends of the earth.

The Prayer for April 17, 2016

Gracious Heavenly Father,
shepherd of our souls and guardian of our way,
in the resurrection of your son Jesus Christ
you have opened for us the way of life.
Continue to lead us by your Word and your Spirit
that we may dwell with you in that life which is eternal;
through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

The Texts for April 17, 2016

First Reading: Acts 9: 36-43
“Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas.” – Peter is summoned to Joppa and Dorcas/Tabitha is restored to life.

Psalmody: Psalm 23
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” – In the midst of the dangerous intrigues of the royal court, where the king is regarded as the shepherd of the people, the poet declares it is the LORD who is his shepherd.

Second Reading: Revelation 7:9-17
“The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
– The prophet sees the martyrs robed in white and singing at the throne of God.

Gospel: John 10:22-30
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” – The conclusion of John 10 that reflects on Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

 

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALes_Baux_Berger_%C3%A0_la_messe_de_Noel.jpg  By Unknown 1930s (Scan old postcard) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons